Cardiovascular Disease:
A National Crisis

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for Americans, and it’s on the rise after decades of decline.1

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for Americans.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death for Americans, killing more people each year than all forms of cancer and accidents combined. It’s also the costliest condition among all major disease categories, accounting for 12% of total U.S. health expenditures and costing the U.S. economy a total of $378 billion each year, including $226 billion in direct health care spending and $152 billion in indirect costs associated with lost productivity.1

Cardiovascular disease is a spectrum of conditions involving the heart and blood vessels that can lead to heart attack and stroke. The most common and deadliest form of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or ASCVD, currently affects more than 22 million people – 8% of the U.S. population.2 A multitude of risk factors contribute to the development and progression of ASCVD including high LDL-C (“bad cholesterol”) cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Cardiovascular deaths are on the rise after decades of decline.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1981-2020. (Accessed December 2022) (Cardiovascular disease deaths estimated as the total of all “Heart Disease” deaths and all “Cerebrovascular” deaths for each year between 1999 and 2020).
  • Three decades of dramatic declines in cardiovascular deaths have stalled and reversed since 2010, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.1,3
  • Despite the growing availability of new therapies and approaches to treat risk factors, the rate of premature cardiovascular deaths has also increased over the last decade, now accounting for 1 in 5 deaths among Americans aged 25 to 64 years.4

Undertreatment of risk factors among underserved populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, and rural Americans, contributes to disparities in outcomes.

  • Black Americans are 35% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than the national average mortality rate across all races.5
  • Mortality due to cardiovascular disease is increasing among women under 65 years in rural areas, but not among men in rural areas.6
  • Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans experienced higher increases in cardiovascular mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to White Americans.7

Critical barriers to quality care and treatment contribute to poor cardiovascular outcomes.

  • Utilization management policies employed by health insurers, such as prior authorization, have become more widespread and can lead to delayed or abandoned treatment, and hospitalizations and other negative patient outcomes down the road.
  • Policy barriers hinder the use of value-based payment arrangements which help improve patient access to new treatments by tying reimbursement to demonstrated clinical outcomes instead of the volume of treatments dispensed.
  • Existing quality measures focus on statin use rather than treating to evidence-based targets, which has led to suboptimal care for many patients; today, only 20% of patients taking statins ever reach healthy levels of LDL cholesterol, the most readily modifiable risk factor for ASCVD.8
  • Adverse social and economic conditions, including lack of education, poor housing conditions, and limited access to healthy foods, increase the burden of CVD risk factors and poor outcomes like stroke, heart attack, and death.9

Take Health to Heart: A Policy Agenda to Stop Cardiovascular Deaths

Cardiovascular disease is a national crisis that affects millions of Americans and their families. We must take action now to address the access barriers that lead to poor outcomes like heart attack, stroke, and death.

As organizations working to advance cardiovascular health and the interests of medically underserved communities, the Foundation of the National Lipid Association and the National Medical Association are coming together through Take Health to Heart. Through our initiative, we seek to educate policymakers, providers, patients, and their families about the critical access barriers that lead to poor outcomes and advocate for policy changes at the state and federal levels that can help reverse the alarming trend in cardiovascular deaths.

Our policy agenda is driven by four key priorities we believe are necessary to lead to lasting change in cardiovascular outcomes:

Ensuring broad, appropriate, and timely access to care and treatment for patients with cardiovascular disease through reforms to prior authorization policies.
Improving the quality of care for patients with cardiovascular disease through updated quality measures that encourage patients to control modifiable risk factors like LDL-C cholesterol.
Enabling health care stakeholders to collaborate to address urgent health challenges through value-based arrangements that improve patient access to innovative therapies.
Addressing the socioeconomic barriers that contribute to significant disparities in cardiovascular outcomes through increased funding and use of programs that improve access to screenings and services for underserved populations.

About Us

Take Health to Heart is an advocacy and education initiative of the Foundation of the National Lipid Association and the National Medical Association. Take Health to Heart is made possible through a sponsorship from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

The Foundation of the National Lipid Association is a non-profit organization focused on providing education and resources to help patients and their families manage and overcome lipid-related health problems that may put them at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Learn more here.
The National Medical Association is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States, serving as the collective voice of more than 50,000 physicians nationwide. Learn more here.